The Uptons Wildlife Adventure in Borneo

Stephanie and Peter Upton

26 Jun 2017

Experiencing the diverse wildlife of Borneo

Our trip begins….

Air Malaysia MH3 to Kuala Lumpur then onto Sandakan in northern Sabah, Borneo. After this, we went on to the Sepilok Nature Resort just a few yards from the orangutan Rehab Centre which incorporates the Sun Bear Sanctuary.  Both animals are kept in semi-wild situations except for the rescued baby orangutans who are kept inside until they are suitably acclimatised.

Apparently the sun bears are endangered, indigenous to Borneo and have predators (crocs and clouded leopard) hence they have their own semi-wild sanctuary.

About 30 minutes drive from Sepilok is the Labuk Bay proboscis monkey rehab centre – again semi-wild in the centre. Huge Oriental Pied Hornbills spotted on way + 2 metre monitor lizard waddling across the road.

a night walk around the orangutan reserve provided flying squirrels, tree vipers, flying lemurs and frogs in holes in the trees!

On the Monday we set off to Sepilok Jetty for a 2 hour boat ride (fast) to Abai Jungle Lodge – only accessible by boat.

We ventured out on an afternoon boat safari up the river in the pouring rain – lots of orangutan and proboscis monkey in the wild but first sight was a white-bellied sea eagle flying towards us with a snake in its beak! Quite a sight. We also saw lots of purple heron, hornbills – and in the dusk fire flies lit up the riverside vegetation.

A quick change from wet clothes for a night walk around the grounds – huntsman spiders, tarantula and an eerie board walk for a couple of hours.

6:15am next morning and another boat safari. Our first spot was a stork-billed kingfisher! Again, we also saw wild orang utan, proboscis monkeys, macaque monkeys and then yellow banded tree viper as we quietly drifted by on the boat...

The next day we took another 2+ hour boat trip to Kinabatangan River Lodge.

the boat safari gave us a great sight – pygmy elephants which we really wanted to see but are reasonably difficult to spot! 

They are about one third the size of Indian/African elephants and these were feeding on fresh vegetation near the river - incredible!

The following morning, we took another boat safari and saw orangutan, proboscis, macaque, storm stork (apparently rare), hornbills and several bird species, as well as a big croc.

Our guide advised that the bubbles alongside the boat was probably a croc and, on cue, a 4-5 metre croc raised itself – longer than our boat and gliding alongside us! 

This could have been tricky, but it just steered left into a backwater and we went on our way – to straight away spot a mother orangutan with baby on a branch overhanging the river.

After our morning boat safari, we headed back for breakfast and then in the afternoon we set off to the Gomantong Caves to see, and smell, the millions of bats and swallows which nest in the cave. A popular place for the chinese for birds nests for soup. The place smelt awful but there are two small shacks inside the caves where workers stay to prevent nest thieves.

It poured down but the dusk bat exit was spectacular – especially when a crested serpent eagle chased them around the skyline.

The next day we sat down for breakfast, then set out on a two and a half hour drive to Borneo Rainforest Lodge, Danum Valley Lodge. On most of the way the roads were flanked by acres and acres of palm oil trees which have decimated the rain forest – most depressing but thankfully the government have apparently stopped further deforestation. Eventually we arrived at the Lodge deep in the grade 1 rain forest/jungle.

 It was very hot and humid – a good leech environment so we wore our (very fashionable) leech socks when we went trekking!

Our first trek was a short flat walk with our guide pointing out poisonous vegetation, spikey branches and other nasties!

After a day of trekking, we settled down for an excellent dinner, prawns, barracuda and choc mousse, bearing in mind the venue. 

Our evening drive giving us mouse deer, flying squirrels, lemurs, fly-catcher, angle-headed lizard, skink giant red ants, tractor millipedes and other birds.

The following morning Stephanie did the group steep muddy hike up to the viewing point and saw orangutans and gibbons  – Peter walked down to river (on his own!!) and spotted hornbills, raptors, black squirrels and Stephanie got ‘leeched’ despite the socks!

The afternoon saw us tramping up river and ‘tubing down’ through the various rapids, bouncing off the river edge, logs and who-knows-what else under water. 

After dinner a night walk gave us the resident albino wild boar, spiders, scorpions and bats sleeping inside pond side vegetation.

The following day, Stephanie was trekking to Hornbill View and Peter to canopy walk and back, with an afternoon over the canopy walk where he saw orangutan, macaque monkeys and exotic vegetation!

On the Sunday, we took a 2+ hour drive back to Lahad Datu airport for the one hour flight to Kota Kinabalu for R&R at the Shangri La Rasa Ria.

A bit of pool/beach time and from the hotel to the beach, we spotted a paradise tree gliding viper, quite a spot, and although, skinny, it was about 2 metres long and mildly poisonous!

The next day, Peter took an early morning 6:30am bird watching trip around the golf course and the first up was a monitor lizard!

Over the 2 hour walk, herons and 24 other birds were spotted - well done to our guide Leroy!

The birds spotted were purple heron, brahminy kite, white-breasted water hen, sandpiper, spotted necked dove, peaceful dove, scaly breasted munai, white collared kingfisher, pacific swallow, pied thriller, common Lora, magpie robin, ashy tailorbird, pied fantail, white breasted wood swallow, Asian glossy starling, olive backed sunbird, dusky muni, Eurasian tree sparrow, oriental dater, red/blue macaw and a sunda pygmy woodpecker.

We also saw water snail eggs at the side of the lake.

Then the long and and arduous flights back arriving 6am on Saturday 10th June – just enough time to get home, have a cup of tea and watch the British Lions game!

This really was a great trip!


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30/6/2017 9:24 AM

Sounds like an amazing trip. One for our bucket list!

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